Lightweight Pilgrimmage on El Camino de Santiago

Lots of folks know that Angel and I will be heading out with a couple of friends in almost exactly a month on El Camino de Santiago, a 500-ish mile pilgrim trail across Northern Spain which traditionally starts in Saint Jean Pied de Port in France, on the East side of the Pyrenees, and ends in Santiago, 80 km from the Atlantic coast in Western Spain.  (We'll continue on to Finisterre - the traditional 'end of the earth on the Atlantic - if all goes well and we can fit it in time-wise).  It's a relatively flat trip that thousands of people take every year, and have been since the Middle Ages, and it's going to be awesome - 4 - 5 weeks of small European villages, wine, pork products, and new international friends on meaningful journeys. 

I'm going to be writing a lot more about the trip, I'm sure, but the part we're wrestling with right now is packing.  In a lot of ways our experience won't be much like that of traditional pilgrims - I'm pretty sure, for instance, that nuns in 1300 AD didn't sleep in hostels and drink sodas out of vending machines any time they wanted.  But I do want to do what I can to engage with the experience like a pilgrim, and part of what will determine how I experience it will be what I take along.  Lots of folks pack like they were headed out on the Appalachian trail, but my goal is to take as little as possible.  A huge part of the Camino experience that I want to have involves 1) learning to rely on strangers and 2) stepping away from daily comforts and learning to live on the basics.  It also involves integrating running on a lot of days, and a heavy pack isn't really compatible with that.  At a practical level, we'll be averaging 15 - 20 miles a day across 4 - 5 weeks (including, potentially, a 50 mile day at the end to get from Santiago to Finisterre if our bodies hold up), and I also want that to be as enjoyable as possible.  30 pounds on my back seems like a recipe for pain to me.  So, I've been looking around at folks who've done this before with a similar ethos, and found a couple of good blogs - including Michael Stricklan who did it a few months ago, and who was kind enough to send me a long email detailing his experience, and this guy who did it a few years ago and has a decent set of details online. 

Based on their input, the basic packing list I've put together (for my edification as much as yours) includes:

1 short sleeved tech shirt
1 pair running shorts
3 pairs of socks
A couple pairs of underwear (maybe)
Buff to use to cover dirty hair, soak in water to cool, look like a rugged adventurer
Brooks Cascadias (most reliable shoe I've found)
1 Patagonia Houdini wind/rain shell (don't have it yet)
1 pair of convertable long/short pants for evenings - lightest weight I can find
1 shirt for evenings
1 pair $2 flip flops for evenings

Silk sleeping bag liner
Fastpack/ultra runners pack (I've been toying with the idea of trying to fit everything into my 9.6 liter Ultimate Direction pack plus a waist belt, but we'll see how it shakes out.)
20 oz water bottle
First aid kit
Compeed bandage for blisters and foot protection
1 bar of soap for body and clothes
Travel toothbrush and toothpaste
lightweight fleece towel
debit card, Passport, Pilgrim's Passport allowing access to hostels
small flashlight

Necessary Evil/luxury:

Kobu mini e-reader loaded up with NCLEX questions (I have to take my nursing licensing exam a couple weeks after we get back from the trip, so this will allow me to study along the way.)

I'm planning for food to come along the way, saving enough space to carry a lunch.

Anything I'm forgetting people who've done this before? 


Maria said…
Hello Tim! I think one of the most important and valuable things that you could take with you are some earplugs. Sleeping without them is almost impossible! I would take also with me a sleep mask (some pilgrims like to wake up VERY early... - let's say, 5AM, and their torches will wake you up).

On my first day, I had been advised to change my socks at half way in order to prevent blisters (pretty wise), so I'll take 2 pairs of socks with me, especially if you are going to walk in the summertime.

The rest is pretty ok for me!!

Good luck and Buen Camino!
Unknown said…
great tip! Thanks Maria!
Maris said…
What about water treatment? Is there no water source?
Unknown said…
Nah - water shouldn't be an issue. The furthest you ever have to go between sources/stores, I'm told, is 15k.
Anonymous said…
Vaseline for your feet; you will need a polar fleece - I used mine inside a pillow case for sleeping. Remember to RELAX while you walk and hydrate before you start as well as along the journey. I had two blisters at the very beginning and that was it. Changing sox and resting and airing your feet regularly as you walk helps lots. Buen Camino!
Anonymous said…
WOW!!!! That is going to be amazing! I can't wait to read about it & see photos - what an adventure! :)